The seasonal restaurant industry is booming. I mean, imagine living on Nantucket Island all summer, enjoying the sun, grabbing a bowl of clam chowder by the beach, and stocking up on Vineyard Vines apparel. OK, for anyone that has ever worked in a seasonal restaurant, you know that your summer would look a little different; running or working at a seasonal restaurant comes with its unique strains and struggles. With seasonality comes new staff, new guests, and a whole lot of planning. Your restaurant’s business fluctuates just like the change in seasons, here are some insights on running a seasonal restaurant.
What is so different about running a seasonal restaurant?
A seasonal restaurant typically runs completely full throttle through specific dates usually related to weather and vacation seasons. For example, a seasonal restaurant on Cape Cod, MA, or in Sag Harbor, NY could be open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, then slowly begin to shut down as the autumn season approaches. Whereas a restaurant in Park City, Utah would begin to open in December and close in mid April, going in synch with ski season. Because of the drastic change in the number of potential guests from peak season to off season, these seasonal restaurants “hibernate” or have very limited hours in off times.
Unlike restaurants that run year round that are prepared for the ebbs and flows of business, these restaurants rely on a just a few months. And these ebbs and flows are based on tourism. During the time a seasonal restaurant is open, it is typically incredibly busy with most of the staff working up to 70 hours a week.
When it comes to re opening a restaurant for the season, there is a lot to consider.
You can’t run a restaurant without a staff right?
Hiring the best team, and coaching them to play well together.
It seems that hiring seasonal staff gets a bad wrap. The thought of hiring a crew and saying goodbye to them after a few months leads one to believe that the quality of hires does not matter. I would argue that this team that you are hiring to run your restaurant is very important. They are going to be working long hours, working in close quarters, and dealing with not the friendliest of guests. Applicants to your seasonal restaurant usually fall into one of these three buckets.
1. “That College Kid That Needs Money.”
This type of candidate wants to work as much as they can to save up for the fall semester. They will pick up any shift that you give them and will be one of the hardest workers on your team. Just prepare for them to leave before labor day.
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2. “The Seasonal Celebrity Shifter”
This guy moves around the country picking up the coolest shifts in the most exoctic locations. He will be on The Hamptons in the summer, and either Miami or Colorado in the winter. He knows how to make money – and he knows how to work. Won’t need much training, and will add a flare to your staff.
3. “The First Timers”
Oh yah. We were all one of these back in the day. These guys come in while their mom watches cheerfully from the car. They are in high school and trying to pick up their first job. They will take some training, but remember, these guys are an investment. They will pay off if you train them and treat them right. Schedule these guys on Tuesdays at 10:00 am. Come on, even your rock stars need a day off! Think of your seasonal restaurant as a team, rather than an expendable. Preparing for customer spikes and lulls with inventory.
We all love being busy and watching those table turn. The hard part about it is keeping up with supply and demand. A seasonal restaurant has huge spikes of customers, like on the 4th of July. But also has major lows, like a rainy Tuesday. As you know – prepping for these highs and lows is no easy task.
Your restaurant probably already has a pretty good handle on business activities. However these controls are usually based off on normal restaurant activity. When it comes to seasonal restaurants it’s tough to gage these highs and lows, and there are times that these controls need to be changed up. A good thing to think about is food storage. When you are preparing for what you think will be a big weekend – do you have the correct refrigeration system? Maybe it would be helpful to get an additional freezer.
This business is all about preparation. For more information and tips on restaurant seasonality check out our guide here.